This Contact episode goes behind the scenes on a big budget commercial from the early days of the Kiwi film renaissance: a 1982 Crunchie bar ad which owes so much to Star Wars, the film crew even call their villain Darth. After 12 hour days working inside the Waitomo Caves, a move to Ninety Mile Beach sees the weather playing havoc with sets and schedules. Seeking fresh faces, commercials king Geoff Dixon (Crumpy and Scotty) cast his lead actors in Australia. Television adverts were even made to announce the arrival of the ad — which plays over the closing credits.
Pioneering poet, author and journalist Robin Hyde was originally Iris Wilkinson. Directed by Tony Isaac (The Governor), this ambitious co-production for television mines quotations from Wilkinson's writing to dramatise her life. In a parallel plotline, a writer, actor and director wrestle with how to capture Iris on screen. For Australian Helen Morse (Picnic at Hanging Rock) playing Iris was a privilege — and her "most difficult" role to date. Morse concluded that Iris was "extraordinarily vulnerable emotionally". This excerpt includes a cameo by the writer's real life son Derek Challis.
Rainbow-coloured goats and a herd of children on horseback feature in this 1965 Australian movie. Expat Kiwi producer Roger Mirams called on a stable of actors from his TV work for this part-musical romp, about a group of youngsters who discover a way to change the colour of animal wool. The cast includes Grease's Olivia Newton-John (in her screen debut) and Howard Morrison (as a shearer who teaches the kids a Māori stick game). After co-founding Kiwi production company Pacific Films, Mirams had left Aotearoa in 1957 to launch a short-lived Australian arm of Pacific.
Heart of the Stag showed that director Michael Firth could handle actors as well as skis (his first film, ski documentary Off the Edge, was Oscar-nominated). Bruno Lawrence stars as a man working for a King Country farmer (Terence Cooper), who romances the farmer's adult daughter (Mary Regan) and starts wondering about the strained family dynamic. A rare drama dealing with incest, Heart of the Stag was praised by The LA Times as "electrifyingly good". The NZ Herald said it handled a delicate subject without compromise. Metro voted it the best Kiwi film of 1984.
Karl Urban's screen career has included dysfunctional family comedies, epic fantasies and offbeat romances — and that's only the Kiwi projects. Urban was award-nominated for films The Price of Milk and The Irrefutable Truth about Demons, and won for Out of the Blue. In recent years he has appeared in a run of Hollywood projects, including The Bourne Supremacy, Star Trek, and as Judge Dredd in Dredd 3D.